Biocyclic vegan farming (also known as 'bio-vegan farming' or 'veganic farming' - as a combination of 'vegan' and 'organic') does completely renounce animal husbandry and the use of animal or synthetic inputs in the organic cultivation of vegan food. This means that, for example, no manure, dung, slurry or slaughterhouse waste is used as fertilizer.
The majority of farms use animal or synthetic fertilizers in the production of vegan food. Organic farming is also often associated with livestock farming. In the case of the organic association Demeter, the keeping of roughage eaters is even obligatory and can only be dispensed with in exceptional cases. Animal husbandry causes massive environmental damage worldwide, ranging from increased land requirements, damage to soil and groundwater, to negative effects on the climate. According to a study by the FAO, over 14 percent of the global greenhouse gases caused by humans are attributable to animal husbandry.
At the same time, the demand for vegetarian and vegan products is also measurable in Germany. According to the data of the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research, 7.6% of consumers are "vegetarians or people who largely avoid meat". Another 1.1 % are "vegans or people who largely avoid animal products". Frequently these consumers of vegan food are not aware that these foods are also predominantly non-vegan in the narrower sense. Industrial supplies of animal origin such as blood, horn, hair, feather or bone meal are frequently used. There are considerable health concerns about these organic fertilizer pellets. They can be contaminated with germs, antibiotics and heavy metals. In the case of biocyclic vegan cultivation, no animal manure or inputs of animal origin are used at all. Instead, great importance is given to a targeted humus formation on a plant basis, which can be achieved by composting in combination with green manure and mulching. If the plant residues used for the humus formation originate from the same farm, community or region, this also results in shorter transport distances. Soil fertility is also being promoted by a varied crop rotation, mixed crops and the cultivation of legumes such as clover-grass, lupines or peas.
A field test in Greece has shown that in the long term the nitrogen content as well as the content of other plant nutrients increased in the humus soil resulting from olive pomace compost. As the nutrients in the humus soil are no longer water-soluble, they are completely available to the plant without causing over-fertilization, says Dr. Johannes Eisenbach, member of the board of directors of the Förderkreis Biozyklisch-Veganer Anbau e.V. (Association for the Promotion of Biocyclic vegan Farming). A study on tomato cultivation confirms these observations. Tomato plants that grew in humus soil yielded up to 45% more than plants that were not treated at all or were treated with inorganic fertilizer. In addition, plant health is improved and more carbon can be bound in the soil through the humus.
Biocyclic vegan farming methods are developing in different variations in many countries around the world. They are often combined with other niches, such as forest gardens, permaculture or horticulture. By now, especially the Förderkreis Biozyklisch-Veganer Anbau e.V. tries to promote the use of the term "biocyclic vegan farming" instead of "bio-vegan farming", as the latter is often used in the food sector to indicate that the ingredients are vegan and the cultivation is organic, but this often does not refer to the fertilization. Since 2017, there has been a seal of approval for biocyclic vegan farming in order to guarantee consumers transparency along the value chain. For the first time, the seal provides information about the fertilization methods used and thus whether the cultivation of food has been vegan overall. The guidelines are recognized by IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) and have been included in the Family of Standards. As around 25 % of organic farms in Germany currently operate without livestock, it is assumed that there is a high potential for conversion to biocyclic vegan farming by replacing the animal or synthetic inputs. Especially for the market of vegan food products, such as plant-based milk, an increasing demand for a consistently vegan cultivation method can be expected. Other areas, such as wine production, can also switch to biocyclic vegan farming, as the first winegrowers in France have already shown.
Depending on the method used, the conversion to biocyclic vegan farming can take quite some time. The autonomous formation of humus soil takes about 2-4 years. Another challenge is the protection against pests. So far, this has been envisioned by promoting the balance of biodiversity, in particular by attracting predators of these pests.
The amended German fertilizer ordinance (“Düngeverordnung“) with its three-year nitrogen limit for compost could be an obstacle, as large quantities of biocyclic humus soil are essential for biocyclic vegan farming. Thanks to long storage times, the biocyclic humus soil does contain nitrogen, however 80% of it remains in the soil, where it contributes to improving the long-lasting humus. Although this is also subject to a gradual long-term decomposition process, only 1-2% of the nutrient and permanent humus is mineralized here per year. The water-soluble nutrient and here in particular nitrogen compounds contained in this humus soil are therefore very low, and thus do not represent a nutrient leaching risk for the groundwater. In order to ensure that biocyclic-vegan cultivation is not disadvantaged by this nitrogen upper limit and thus quantity restriction for the water-protecting humus soil, the biocyclic humus soil should ideally be excluded from the fertilizer ordinance and the compost ordinance or be specifically defined and differentiated.
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